The Long Road
Wayne Scheer
Break

RC pulled the bus into Electric Cowboy's back lot. Joe-Frank didn't expect a crowd greeting him, like the old days, but nobody seemed to even notice the Joe-Frank James Express, which he had gotten repainted and spruced up for their comeback tour.

"Remember when this place used to be BJ's Star Studded Honky Tonk, RC?"

"Sure do, boss," RC, driver, drummer and best friend, said. "Some good times. Lotsa gals."

Joe-Frank tried remembering.

"You wanna haul some of the gear inside?" RC asked.

"Nah, let's wait till the boys get here." The rest of the band preferred driving their own cars to Little Rock after their day jobs. "They should start showing up soon. Meantime, let's see what they done to the old place."

The drive from Memphis only took about two hours, but Joe-Frank's joints squeaked and clicked like a guitar left out in the rain overnight. He grabbed old Blackie, his trusty Stetson, and eased out the door.

Walking into the once familiar nightclub, Joe Frank scanned the glossy photos of bikini night contests. Sheeeiitt. The place appeared sleeker and cleaner than he remembered but cheesy at the same time, like an ex-wife with a facelift. Hard rock blared through the speakers. Mac never would have allowed that noise. No good old boys sitting at the bar swapping lies and whooping it up when they saw him. The few people there were mostly women in tight jeans, younger than his daughters, and college boys with slicked back hair.

Joe-Frank watched the women laugh and whisper. He suspected they were laughing at him.

RC and Joe-Frank leaned on the bar. The bartender looked like he'd need training wheels to drive his daddy's John Deere. "We're playing here tonight, son," Joe-Frank said. "This is RC Harris. I'm Joe-Frank James."

The bartender stuck out his hand. "Pleased to meet ya'll."

Joe-Frank caught him peeking at the sign near the stage: Tonight: Joe-Frank James Express.

"I'm looking forward to hearing you. Can I get you something to drink before you start setting up?"

"Cold beers. And keep'em flowing." Thank the Lord for the free drinks.

The young barkeep poured the beers. "You want me to set you up a tab, Mr. James? I'll just need your credit card."

Joe-Frank looked to RC. "We sure got ourselves a long road to travel."

Wayne Scheer has locked himself in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne's, not the turtle's.) To keep from going back to work, he's published hundreds of short stories, essays, and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, available at issuu.com/pearnoir/docs/revealing_moments. He's been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net.